Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Good Reasons to Leave a Church Evaluated (Part 3)

Here are some final thoughts on Jason Helopoulos' challenging post "Good Reasons to Move On." I hope these thoughts spur us on to maturity and thus on to unity in Christ.

Reasons Often Used Which are Insufficient

1. Children’s Ministry—The Children’s ministry at another church is better. This cannot be a reason for changing churches. It is rather an opportunity for you to get involved in the children’s ministry of your church.

…or to realize that you as a parent carry the primary responsibility for your children’s spiritual training and that your children do not need a better children’s ministry in order to thrive spiritually.

One of the worst things parents do to their children is teach them that life revolves around them. Parents might never say this, but their actions shout out, “My child has to have what makes him happy, and if you can’t provide it, phooey on you.” They are teaching their children that we get involved in the church for the benefits we perceive ourselves to get from it. There is nothing here of biblical love, which is at the heart of true Christianity. If parents want their children to thrive spiritually, they should model Christ-like love.

2. Buzz—Many people will flow to whatever church in town has the current “buzz.” The argument will be that the Spirit is at work there and we want to be part of it. But buzzes come and go. And so do the people that follow them.


3. Youth Group—The unhappiness of our teenage children in the current Youth Group, because of activities, other youth, etc. is not a reason for leaving the church we have covenanted with. I know this one will be controversial. Believe me, I have empathy as a parent and a former Youth Pastor. But our children are not the spiritual directors of our home. They should not be choosing the church we attend based upon their social status and network.

Again I will say, Amen.

4. Church has changed—Churches always change. Unless the changes are unbiblical then we don’t have a reason to move on. We don’t move on when our wife or husband changes! [Why] are we so quick to do so with the church we have covenanted with?


5. New Pastor—A new pastor is not a sufficient reason to change churches. It doesn’t matter how stiff, impersonal, unfunny, etc. he is. The list is endless. It doesn’t even matter if he is not the most interesting preacher. He is the man God called to this church for this time. And this is your church. Again, unless he is unbiblical why move on? You haven’t covenanted with a man, but with this body.


6. I’m Not Being Ministered to—I tell every one of our new member classes, “If we all walked into church each week and had a list of people we were going to try and ‘touch,’ encourage, or minister to, do you know how dynamic this church would be? Just on Sunday mornings, let alone if we did it during the week. If we each were concerned about the other person and walked in each Sunday with that in the forefront of our mind instead of, “Why didn’t he talk to me?,” “Why doesn’t anyone care about me?,” “Why isn’t anyone ministering to me?” Start ministering to others and you will find that you are being ministered to.

Amen and amen!

7. Music—Not a reason—whether it is slow, fast, traditional, contemporary, Psalms, hymns, or gospel choruses. Stop using it as an excuse!

Given what I have said so far, one might expect that I would keep singing and turn this evaluation into a seven-fold Amen. But I’m not going to do that, so please bear with me. I want to use this as an opportunity to deepen our understanding of what is actually going on in the music debates in churches.

Roger Scruton says, “Implicit in our sense of beauty is the thought of community – of the agreement in judgement that makes social life possible and worthwhile…Nor is this desire for consensus confined to the public realm of architecture and garden design. Think of clothes, interior d├ęcor, and bodily ornaments: here too we can be put on edge, excluded or included, made to feel inside or outside the implied community, and we strive by comparison and discussion to achieve a consensus within which we can feel at home” (Beauty, 134-5). If this is correct, and I believe it is, there must be constant arguing toward consensus on the issue of church music, not an imbecilic and relativistic truce for the sake of so-called peace. Peace is not the absence of conflict but rightly ordered tranquility.

The seriousness of the music issue in any given church depends greatly upon the rationale used to justify that church’s musical practice. If a church has adopted a true aesthetic relativism like the society in which we live, the issue at hand is graver than debates about any particular musical style. If the church is infected with kitsch, that disease of faith which craves the sensuous trappings of belief without the reality of a true engagement with a holy God or the reality of true discipleship, then the issue at hand is much more serious than whether that church sings the music of Bach or of John W. Peterson. In other words, what we have going on here is a failure of discipleship, not primarily a style debate. That should tell us something about the spiritual condition of that church.

If, on the other hand, a church makes some poor judgments musically but is truly striving not to flow with the current of cultural relativism, then we do not have a failure of discipleship but a simple error to which all of us are prone. Not only should we not leave a church over this kind of an issue, we should instead be motivated by love to draw closer to our brothers and sisters in Christ, helping and encouraging and challenging and learning together.

Thus, endeavoring to maintain the unity produced by the Spirit may very well involve arguing over the music in a church. In fact, I would guess that in our day it will almost always involve arguing over the music in a church, in a godly spirit, of course. As human communication, music can minister grace or it can spew corruption. It can encourage ennobling affections which teach us to move with one another in the beautiful dance of unity, or it can invite the mob passions of the mosh pit which shape us to move against one another.

Our cultural forms and the understanding of life that they mediate are never irrelevant to our unity in the body of Christ (not to mention a host of other things). Rather, they are the very means we use to live out our unity. No matter how much pious talk we pour out about being together for the gospel, no genuine human community will ever be sustainable which does not develop some kind of common ground culturally. I’m all for working toward cultural common ground with fellow believers. However, when those believers deny the very possibility of better or worse in our musical choices, it makes progress impossible. When faced with that kind of deep-rooted relativism, I can’t blame Christians for despairing of sticking it out in their current church. The black hole of aesthetic relativism exerts a strong pull to suck away all virtuous judgment. A wise man foresees the evil and hides himself.

8. There are others…we haven’t even mentioned the service is too early, the coffee is terrible, the pastor doesn’t know how to shuck corn (Yep…those are all true ones I have heard).

And all God’s people said…Amen!

1 comment:

Ace said...

Do you know how to shuck corn?